MAN Truck & Bus

A look at the automated city bus of the future

13 Mar 2024

From 5 to 7 March, "Mobility Move" in Berlin showcased innovations relating to electromobility, autonomous driving and digitalization. One highlight was the "BeIntelli" bus at the MAN stand.

"Putting the future on the road" was the motto of Germany's largest conference and trade fair for road-bound public mobility this year. At the MAN stand in the Estrel Congress Centre, trade visitors were able to experience what this means in concrete terms: a MAN Lion's City 12 E was waiting for them there, which not only shines with its climate-friendly electric drive - the "explanatory bus" of the "BeIntelli" project is also equipped with state-of-the-art sensor and computer technology: 3D LIDARs, radars, cameras, ultrasonic sensors and a clearly visible server in the front part of the passenger compartment enable the electric lion to drive autonomously in road traffic.

So it's no wonder that many visitors took the opportunity to take a look inside the bus of the future and have the technology explained to them. On a monitor, for example, they were able to follow live how the LIDAR sensors perceive the vehicle's surroundings - people, furniture and other exhibits in the vicinity were clearly recognisable in the point cloud. Another screen showed the recording of a test drive across a test site: The vehicle moved safely along its lane and recognised traffic lights, road signs and other road users thanks to its sophisticated sensor system.

Surroundings in view: Nothing around the vehicle escapes the LIDAR sensors of the explanatory bus.

Bringing autonomous mobility to life

"With the BeIntelli explanatory bus, we want to bring the possibilities of autonomous mobility of the future closer to industry, politics, science and society," explains Prof Sahin Albayrak, consortium and project manager of BeIntelli. "Ten integrated displays and six tablets in the interior of the vehicle visualise how the bus perceives and anticipates its surroundings, which route it plans and which driving decisions it makes." Test drives are currently taking place in non-public areas before the bus is scheduled to drive automatically through Berlin's city centre in the summer. To this end, an urban test area is being set up in the centre of Berlin, stretching from the Brandenburg Gate via Ernst-Reuter-Platz and the Memorial Church to Adenauerplatz.

With the BeIntelli explanatory bus, we want to bring the possibilities of autonomous mobility of the future closer to industry, politics, science and society

Sahin Albayrak, Consortium and project manager Belntelli

Bus strategist: Mustafa Tasaltin provided information on the development of MAN's electric lions.

MAN is realising the "BeIntelli" project together with the DAI Laboratory at the Technical University of Berlin and IAV GmbH Ingenieurgesellschaft Auto und Verkehr. A large interdisciplinary team from science and practice is working on the overall project, which is part of "ZEKI | Zentrum für Erlebbare KI und Digitalisierung" and is funded by the Federal Ministry of Digital and Transport (BMDV), with the aim of making an intelligent traffic system with automated vehicles tangible. "We are using our software stack for the bus, which was specially developed in the BeIntelli project," reports Marc Guerreiro Augusto, BeIntelli project coordinator. "Once a test licence has been granted by the Federal Motor Transport Authority, it will be made available to the public for explanatory drives in our real-world laboratory."

Forecast: Tim Alscher from IAV expects driverless buses towards the end of the 2020s.

First automated buses by 2030

Tim Alscher, the responsible project manager at IAV, believes that local public transport is an ideal first area of application for automated driving: "Buses are on the road around the clock, which is why automation makes particular sense here. With BeIntelli, we are creating an important basis for this - and for the revolution in local public transport." Alscher expects the first driverless buses to be in use towards the end of the 2020s.

Expert in automated driving: Jana Kirchen from MAN is registering great customer interest in driverless buses.

Jana Kirchen, Product Strategy Manager for Autonomous Driving at MAN, who is responsible for the technology roadmap, product planning and partnerships, has a very similar view: "From 2030, we want to build buses with SAE automation level 4 that can travel on the roads without a driver". There is great interest among potential customers - because due to the increasing shortage of drivers, transport companies are looking for technical solutions to be able to maintain and even expand their services in the future. "That's why MAN is involved in BeIntelli and other projects such as MINGA," reports Kirchen. "MINGA aims to integrate an automated eBus into an existing bus route in Munich. The pilot operation is scheduled to start in 2025. For MINGA, we will be using an eBus with MAN's new E/E architecture, into which the automated driving functions can be integrated particularly effectively."

Bus strategist: Mustafa Tasaltin talked about the development of MAN's electric lions.

Mustafa Tasaltin, Senior Vice President Engineering, Product and Project Management Bus, informed visitors in Berlin about the current status and further development of the electric lions. "Our eBuses are proving themselves both in the wintery cold of Oslo and in the heat of Valencia. And with the new battery generation, which we will be mass-producing in Nuremberg from 2025 and installing in our eBuses, we will significantly increase the range even further. We want to drive this development further forward in the coming years, whereby we can also utilise the expertise of Volkswagen and TRATON."

Appreciation: The "Favourite Bus Driver" initiative recognises the people behind the wheel.

"Favourite bus driver": Appreciation for the people behind the wheel

The "Favourite bus driver" initiative supported by MAN also entered its second round at Mobility Move. Public transport passengers can go to to describe a special incident or a fond memory and nominate their personal favourite driver. "There are many great employees in public transport," says Karl-Peter Naumann, Honorary Chairman of the PRO BAHN passenger association and initiator of the campaign. "With this initiative, we want to make them visible to the public." Marion Heber, Head of Human Resources at DB Regio Straße, added: "Drivers are the heart of our company. We are already experiencing a shortage of skilled labour - and this is just the beginning. That's why we need to recruit but also retain our staff. With the Favourite Bus Driver initiative, we want to help improve the image of the profession." An important concern, because for the time being, public transport without people at the wheel is still unthinkable.

Text: Christian Buck

Photos: Emil Levy